Burkina Faso Internet Shutdown Curtails Information, Draws Criticism

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Internet and mobile phones in Burkina Faso that began on Saturday continued through Monday, causing widespread communication disruptions, confusion and frustration.

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People in the country report that the 3G mobile network, on which most of the West African country is dependent, is not working. However, fixed line and wireless services, or WiFi, have not been disrupted, a diplomat based in the capital city of Ouagadougou told Granthshala.

“From what I have seen, nothing has been officially stated about the reason for cutting 3G,” said the diplomat authorized to speak to the media.

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However, the shutdown began the same day as a group of demonstrators blocked a French military convoy attempting to travel through the city of Kaya. According to official sources who spoke to the Granthshala’s Bambara Service, a convoy of about 60 vehicles and 100 soldiers headed from the Ivory Coast to Niger and Mali was forced to return to the capital of Ouagadougou due to protests.

In an effort to disperse the crowd, Burkinabe security forces used tear gas and French soldiers fired warning shots in the air. Several protesters said they were injured during the incident, although the Granthshala cannot independently verify what caused the injuries.

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Protesters hold a placard that read "Not for France" during a protest for the departure of French forces from Burkina Faso in the capital, Ouagadougou, on November 16, 2021.

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Protesters gather outside Ouagadougou to block a French military convoy headed to Niger

Global connectivity tracking organization Netblocks on Monday confirmed the continuing Internet outage and said the disruption type “cannot be worked out with fraudulent software or the use of VPNs.”

It added that the disruption stops the flow of information and prevents news coverage of important events in the country.

Access Now, another advocacy group condemned the disruption, called on officials to restore internet connections. “While details are still being revealed, one thing is certain: this is a blatant assault on human rights,” the group tweeted on Monday. “#Internet shutdowns are never acceptable.”

There is growing anger over extremist violence in Burkina Faso that has killed thousands and displaced more than one million people, according to the United Nations,

Some protesters in Kaya are also angry over French military involvement in the conflict, due to allegations, advanced by misinformation online, that the French are arming terrorist groups.

Granthshala’s Head of Bambara Service Bagassi Koura contributed to this report.

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